Wera Hobhouse has secured cross-party support for her calls for the Government to pave the way for more cafes, restaurants and bars to use closed roads to enable social distancing between customers, keeping businesses open and people in work.
Writing to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the cross-party group warned of the economic cost Covid-19 has had on the hospitality sector and urged the Government to “ensure that businesses and local authorities have the confidence and support they need to plan for the creation of a safe street cafe culture.”
The intervention led by the local MP, and coinciding with English Tourism Week, came as a tenth of hospitality businesses polled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said they fear for their cash reserves and risk collapsing within weeks.
“Countless restaurants, pubs and hotels are facing financial hardship because of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. I fear for the economic impact on communities across the country, particularly the loss of people’s livelihoods.
“The Government must urgently resolve the gaps in their plans, including addressing social distancing requirements across the hospitality sector by embracing a new street cafe culture.
“Temporarily allowing these businesses to use nearby streets and other open-air spaces would give confidence to both businesses and customers.
"While there needs to be local discretion, ensuring that any plans are suitable for different areas and resident groups, Ministers should look at international examples and act now to save jobs.”
Jane Campbell-Howard, the owner of the Society Café in central Bath, said:
“We’d be delighted with any initiative that would help us welcome back our lovely customers more safely.
“Spacing is obviously the main issue for us and all of our friends in the hospitality business. Having more space in which to seat customers would give us, and everyone else in our industry, the opportunity to slowly and very carefully re-emerge from this lockdown, and would help customers to enjoy hospitality more safely, throughout summer.”
Chris Addey, the owner of the café 8e Chelsea Road in Bath, said:
“Cafes like 8e Chelsea Road are social hubs. Under lockdown, communities have lost much more than a place to drink coffee - they've lost their hearts. Regenerating this cafe culture, therefore, takes on the added significance of trying to kick-start society.
“Key for cafe owners like me, will be how we adapt to social distancing constraints through innovative use of space, particularly outdoor space.”